The contextual meaning of sustainable development: the case of the Dutch drinking water sector

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Abstract

The concept of sustainable development means different things to different people in different contexts, leading to 'strong' and 'weak' versions of sustainability. This article addresses the question of which meaning of sustainability is given by the Dutch drinking water sector and its main stakeholders. The 'weak', or human-oriented, school was found at three of the four water companies studied. This is understandable, because water companies have a human-oriented task: to provide the public with drinking water. The 'strong' version of sustainability was found within several governmental bodies. Their view of 'staying within the natural water system' was unacceptable for most other societal actors. A third form of sustainability was developed by the fourth drinking water company studied. It bridges the human and nature interests in a step by step dialogue. This way of looking at sustainable development may be an interesting perspective in which humans start seeing themselves as an integral part of nature again, instead of as being outside and above nature.. Copyright (c) 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-276
JournalSustainable Development
Volume14
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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